Several members of the AllEars team spent most of March visiting Disney destinations far from home. We visited Hong Kong Disneyland, Tokyo Disneyland, Tokyo Disney Sea, and Aulani in Hawaii. Along for all or part or this journey were AllEars' Deb Wills, Laura Gilbreath, Lee Zimmerman, Jeanine Yamanaka, Linda Eckwerth, and Deb Koma, and friends Jack and Pete.
Tokyo Disney Resort - Day 3, Part 1, Tokyo DisneySea
Tokyo DisneySea is VERY different than any Disney park we have here. So instead of starting in with what we did on Tuesday, I think I'll give you an overview of it first.
I found that Tokyo DisneySea reminded me much more of Universal's Islands of Adventure than any other Disney park. Some similar looks to those of the Port of Entry, Lost Continent, and Jurassic Park areas of Islands of Adventure. Not that that's a bad thing - those are all really well-done!
Tokyo DisneySea has themed "ports" to go along with its water theme: Mediterranean Harbor, American Waterfront, Mysterious Island, Port Discovery, Lost River Delta, Mermaid Lagoon, and Arabian Coast. The Mediterranean Harbor surrounds a large lake, and several big water shows are held there.
There is a waterway that connects all of the other port areas, also.
The park icon for DisneySea and its most prominent feature is the volcano, Mt. Prometheus. You can see it from just about anywhere in the park, as well as from Tokyo Disneyland and other areas outside the park. Mysterious Island is contained in its crater. The volcano "erupts" multiple times a day, and at night you can see the glow of lava. It's quite imposing.
And the theming was incredible throughout the park. Theming to the nth degree. Not that it was excessive - it was just so thorough, and so incredibly well designed and executed. So many layers of detail. "Immersive" has been one of Disney's buzzwords for a while now - and this park was all of that. (Of course using "immersive" to describe a park with a water theme makes me chuckle, but I digress...)
All the hype you hear about Tokyo DisneySea and how amazing it is? I'd have to say that it's true, and it deserves that reputation. So I'm not even going to bother mentioning theming from now on - you can just assume that it was all pretty wonderful.
Tokyo DisneySea is more of an "adult" park than Tokyo Disneyland. Alcohol is served in the park, and most of the attractions appeal to an older audience: there are more thrill rides with height requirements. Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast contain the more kid-oriented attractions. Still, we saw very few families with young kids (and strollers) at Tokyo DisneySea - even in those two areas.
I mentioned before that it was term break for Japanese schools. I would say that 99% of the guests in Tokyo DisneySea were kids ages 13-25. Our group was by FAR the oldest in Tokyo DisneySea - I saw very few people over the age of 40. And there were also very few westerners - I think I saw maybe 25-30 the entire four days that we were in the Tokyo parks. We REALLY stood out. :-)
I found it interesting...we live in southern California where it's a pretty heterogeneous society - lots of Asians, Hispanics, and African-Americans. So when we're out and about we're used to seeing people of all different races and colors. The Asian parks didn't really seem strange to me, except for the language, but their population is much more homogeneous, so I could tell that we looked strange to them. We got lots of curious looks and lots of smiles. But they were much kinder and more patient with us than I think we Americans typically are to those here who are obviously foreign...I know I personally need to keep that in mind in the future...
Ok...so it's Tuesday morning, and after having our usual yogurt, fruit, and pastry breakfast in our room, Lee and I are about to go to Tokyo DisneySea for the first time.
Since we were not staying at the Miracosta, we did not have early entry to TDS (sorry, I'm tired of typing it out, so please note that from here on, TDS = Tokyo DisneySea). We'd been advised that the lines to get into the park in the morning are very long, and to be at the entrance by 7:15 - the park opened at 8:00.
We took the monorail to get there - this was the first time we'd done that! The monorail requires a ticket to ride - it's not free, though as hotel guests we were provided with passes to use in the ticket machines. It's a much bigger, more train-like monorail than the ones at WDW. The windows are shaped like Mickey heads!
The monorail has 4 stops: Tokyo Disneyland Station (where we were), Bayside Station (for the non-Disney hotels), Tokyo DisneySea Station, and Resort Gateway Station (Ikspiari and the transfer point to Japan Railway). We went two stops to get off at the TDS station.
It was a beautiful clear day - though still in the 40s. As we were traveling on the monorail I looked out the window and could see Mt Fuji off in the distance! All covered in snow, a HUGE mountain standing all by itself. That was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I did not realize until later how lucky we were to see it - it's not a common sight. It's about 70 miles away. That was an awesome moment.
BTW...though we had toured the parks mostly together with our fellow travelers the first part of the trip, from here on Lee and I were usually by ourselves, though every once in a while we'd encounter some of the group. Not that we were mad at each other or not getting along - we just all had different priorities and schedules.
We got to the TDS entrance about 7:20, and there were lots and lots of people already standing in lines to get in. We picked a line, and it just got longer behind us as we waited. They opened the turnstiles just a little bit early and started letting guests enter the park. They also do a bag check at the Tokyo parks, but they do it just before the turnstiles. And the security guards didn't do more than a cursory look at our bags - they just smiled and said: "Ohayou gozaimasu!"
Once we entered the park, the kids were RUNNING to get to wherever they were trying to go. So we ran a little, too, until we got to cast members who were telling people to stop running. We did, but most of the kids didn't. :-)
From the park entrance we walked past the big water/planet earth sculpture just inside the turnstiles and then under the Miracosta, past shops, and to the Mediterranean Harbor. Where we got our first real view of Mt. Prometheus. That thing is BIG! That's actually where we were headed first: to Mysterious Island to get a Fastpass for Journey to the Center of the Earth.
Even though that area is just about at the center of the park, it felt like we walked for a long time before we got there. Google maps shows it as almost .4 miles from the turnstiles to the volcano, so that is a pretty good distance.
We were able to get a FP with a return time about an hour away. In the meantime, there was NO line for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea - in fact, we walked right into a sub! No stairs to climb down to get into these - you enter from doors on the side. I think they seat six - two facing forward, the other seats facing somewhat to the sides. We sat in the front.
It was not as cramped as the Nemo Submarine Voyage, and we had big windows to look out of instead of tiny portholes. The narration was in Japanese, so we're not exactly sure what was happening - we saw lots of pretty underwater fish and plants, and then I think we were attacked by a giant squid. But we survived - not so sure about the squid.
(And did you notice that our first attraction truly WAS an immersive one???)
As you have probably deduced from the names of the attractions, the Mysterious Island area has a Jules Verne theme. Lots of greenish copper and bronze. There's a lake in the middle of the crater, with the Nautilus submarine floating in it.
There was still a while until our Fastpass would be valid for Journey, so we went to Port Discovery to try StormRider. This area has kind of a steampunk look - futuristic, but not. There was only a 10 minute wait for StormRider, which is a simulator ride where we fly into a superstorm and deploy a "storm diffuser" that will break up the storm.
The movement is similar to Star Tours but the simulator vehicles are quite a bit larger. And it rains inside - depending on where you sit you can get pretty wet. (We were in a relatively dry spot.) It was in Japanese, but we got the gist of it. (Inexperienced/inept pilot, wrong place at the wrong time, saves the day anyway.)
We were inside our Fastpass window, so we could get a new Fastpass - we chose Raging Spirits in the Lost River Delta, and then went back to Mysterious Island.
The queue for Journey to the Center of the Earth goes down inside the mountain to the loading area for the mine vehicles, which hold six passengers, in three rows of two. We were in the back row, which are the worst seats. (In the Tokyo parks we either seemed to get the first row or the last row - perhaps because those were the ones easiest to point to?) The vehicles descend down through crystal caverns, past the strange creatures and plant life that live deep under the earth. Something goes wrong (doesn't it always?) and the car moves even deeper into the volcano, until it is suddenly propelled upward and bursts out near the top of the volcano, then descends in a roller coaster ride down the side of the mountain.
The rest of our group had done this on Sunday, and had really liked it, so our expectations were pretty high. My reaction was: "That was it?" The roller coaster part was fun, but it was only about 15 seconds long. Since we were sitting in the back, we didn't have as good a view of the things in the caverns, either. I definitely did not think it was worth the 160-minute wait time - I wouldn't have waited 20 minutes for it. But there were still plenty of kids getting into the standby line.
We walked past Mermaid Lagoon to the Arabian Coast. This is a really large area - much of it inside an impressive-looking walled city.
We walked under the tiled entry gateway down the stairs into a big open courtyard with a fountain in the middle.
On one side is the Caravan Carousel, which is a two story carousel. In addition to beautiful Arabian horses it also has camels and genies and griffins and elephants - oh my. It had no line, so we went for a ride.
On the other side of the courtyard was the entrance to the Agrabah Marketplace, with narrower streets and shops and restaurants.
The entrance to the Magic Lamp Theater was on the far side of the courtyard, but we went back to see that later.
Outside the city walls and next to the water was Jasmine's Flying Carpets and something called Sindbad's Storybook Voyage, but the latter was not running (and it was down all day).
It was time that we could get a new Fastpass, so we got one for Indiana Jones and the Temple of the Crystal Skull. The standby line was up to 90 minutes. As you can tell, we had done very well with Fastpasses and really didn't understand why anyone would be willing to stand in a 90-minute (or longer) line when Fastpasses were still available, and there were still plenty of attractions that didn't have really long lines. Now, granted they weren't the E-ticket attractions...and that might be the reason.
Our valid Fastpass was for Raging Spirits. This is a roller coaster with a 360 loop. The coaster is on the site of an archeological dig, and looks like it's supported by the scaffolding that's been erected around a stone temple. Lots of lumber lashed together. It's more like a wild mouse type of coaster except that it has banked turns and not the sharp 180 degree turns. It's not very fast...as we were riding it I thought: "There's no way we have enough speed to do a 360 degree loop!" But fortunately there was something that accelerated us just before the loop so we had enough momentum to make it.
This was a very short ride - less than one and a half minutes. Not very impressive, definitely not worth a 160 minute wait! (Are you detecting a pattern here?)
We'd already seen that the snack lines were getting long, so even though it was only about 10:30 we decided to have an early lunch when we walked by Miguel's El Dorado Cantina and saw that it was open.
It was a beautiful clear day but it was still cold, and THEY HAD HOT WINE!!! They also had "tacos". They were served with a side of French fries (really?) and a beverage - there was an upcharge for the wine, but that was fine. I had the shrimp salad taco and Lee had the teriyaki pork taco. They were a little unusual, but tasted good - mostly it was just a pretty small serving. With the wine and the fries it was 1290 yen - almost $13.
We hadn't been to the American Waterfront area yet so we walked there after lunch. There are multiple locales represented here. The first is Cape Cod, and it did look very similar except for the giant volcano behind it. :-)
Cape Cod is the hometown of Duffy the Disney Bear. And Duffy is HUGE in Japan. I think he's more popular than Mickey Mouse! We saw lots of kids (male and female) carrying Duffy purses and Duffy popcorn buckets, and wearing Duffy ears, or carrying a backpack covered with small Duffy clip-ons in a variety of costumes. Oh, and then there were lots of people just carrying their Duffy bears around. (But who am I to talk - I carried Tigger with me on this trip!) There are multiple stores in BOTH Disney parks that are dedicated to Duffy merchandise. And not just Duffy merchandise, but his girlfriend as well - Shellie May. So of course there was a Duffy store in Cape Cod.
From that part of the park we could see over the "seawall", and we caught a glimpse of Mt. Fuji again. Still a very impressive sight.
The largest part of the American Waterfront has a New York City look. There's a big ship called the SS Columbia that's also a restaurant and the location of the Turtle Talk show. Then there's the Hightower Hotel, aka the Tower of Terror. It's a very impressive-looking building. Since we could now get another Fastpass we got one for the Tower of Terror - but it wasn't good until 9:00 that night, which was over 9 hours away! Better than the 180 minute standby line, though.
TDS has an elevated electric railway that runs from the American Waterfront to Port Discovery and back. It's a one-way trip - everyone has to get off at the opposite station. There was a really nice view of the park and the surrounding area from up there.
This brings us to just about noon - I think that's enough for Part 1.
Next time: Tokyo DisneySea, Part 2 - Shows and Spectaculars
The previous post in this blog was Tokyo Disney Resort - Part 3.
The next post in this blog is Tokyo DisneySea - Part 5.